A Summerville woman was given a year of federal probation Wednesday for illegally accessing celebrities' passport applications while working at the U.S. State Department's passport office in North Charleston.
Yvette M. Burrison, 46, entered a guilty plea in October to a charge of unauthorized computer access, admitting she had viewed the passport applications of 98 individuals, including actors, musicians, comedians, models and athletes between January 2003 and September 2006.
Burrison left the State Department after entering the guilty plea, acting U.S. Attorney Kevin F. McDonald said. U.S. Magistrate Robert S. Carr imposed the sentence.
As an employee, Burrison had access to official State Department computer databases, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System, which contains all images of passport applications dating back to 1994.
The database contains, among other things, a photograph of the passport applicant as well as certain personal information, including the applicant's full name, date and place of birth, current address, telephone numbers, parent information, spouse's name, and emergency contact information.
These confidential files are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and access by State Department employees is strictly limited to official government duties, McDonald said.
Burrison admitted that she had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that her sole purpose in viewing the files was to satisfy her curiosity.
Burrison is the ninth current or former State Department employee or contractor across the country to be sentenced in a continuing investigation, being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section.
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